Tips for getting—and keeping—healthy skin
“Many products on the market provide no advantage for the skin,” says Toronto dermatologist Sheldon Pollack. It’s tempting to try rows of beauty products that promise to “reduce your lines in 14 days” or “instantly minimize your pores.” But with the holiday season just around the corner, we don’t have time—or money—to waste on ineffective skincare.
However, one exceptional product is sunscreen. Regardless of skin type and age, dermatologists agree on daily sunscreen use as one of the most important skincare habits. “The best sunscreens contain Mexoryl, an excellent ultraviolet A blocker,” Dr. Pollack says. Many sunscreens only protect against UVB rays, but UVA rays are responsible for causing wrinkles. The most effective products contain both UVA and UVB protection.
Next to sun damage, the skin often suffers from dehydration. “Hydrated skin is happy skin,” says Lisa Kozoriz, manager of The Ten Spot Leslieville, a spa in downtown Toronto. “Some people think they have oily skin and end up using products that are too drying on their skin.” Start from the inside out by drinking six to eight glasses of water a day and choosing the right moisturizer for your skin type. For oily skin, Toronto dermatologist Maxine Yat Wing Wong suggests oil-free, non-comedogenic products that contain hyaluronic acid. Those with dry skin can go for richer, creamier formulas while the combination-skinned should avoid oily products in the T-zone. Oh, and don’t forget to put on some lip balm (with SPF)!
Hydration also helps to prevent breakouts, Kozoriz says. For long-lasting clear skin, you should assess what you’re eating. “It’s important to understand that most skin conditions—acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea and even wrinkles—are inflammatory conditions,” says registered dietitian Kelly Greer. Inflammatory foods include packaged foods, fried foods, gluten-containing grains, artificial sweeteners and white sugar.
“Consuming foods that prevent/repair skin damage can go a long way in making your skin look young and beautiful,” Greer says. Antioxidants in food help to prevent free radical damages in the skin that result in aging skin and brown spots. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and green tea are rich in antioxidants. Greer says cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kale improve hormonal skin problems like acne by helping the body naturally detoxify excess estrogen. Sulforapane, an anti-cancer compound found in the vegetables, is a powerful antioxidant with possible anti-inflammatory actions that could help prevent brown spots on the skin.
If you’ve been suffering from acne, you may want to consider eliminating skimmed milk and high-glycemic (high GI) foods from your diet. A 2007 study carried out by Harvard School of Public Health found that there was a clear link between those who drank milk regularly and people who suffered from acne. Those who drank skimmed milk suffered with the worst breakouts, with a 44 per cent increase in the likelihood of developing blemishes. It is the thought that processing the milk increases the levels of hormones in the drink. “High GI foods cause a spike in hormone levels including insulin which is thought to instigate sebum production,” Greer says. Some high GI foods include refined grain products, wheat products, white rice, sugar and white potatoes. “Elevated insulin levels seem to be linked to creating hormonal acne,” Greer says.
Kozoriz says it’s important to keep your diet characteristics in mind while shopping for cosmetics. “Some people may not realize that their allergy/sensitivity to gluten can also affect their skin!” Cosmetic ingredients that may indicate gluten is present include oats (avena), barley (hordeum), rye (secale) and wheat (triticum). Dr. Wong also advises the sensitive-skinned to stay away from plant extracts and botanicals such as tea tree oil, which can cause irritation and allergic reactions.
For many of us, healthy skin isn’t free. We need to do our skin a favour by providing the necessary building blocks every day. Kozoriz says, “Having clean skin is the best way to start!” If you don’t have your tried-and-true beauty routine, Dr. Pollack recommends seeing a dermatologist who can analyze your skin and recommend products that best suit your needs. Your skin will thank you, and you’ll be thankful for your healthy, smooth skin!